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201  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: October 20, 2017, 01:57:23 PM
I share the sentiment, but having them commit against us is not a small thing e.g. they could start enabling refugee flows again, facilitate Russian naval movements out of Crimea through the Bosphorus into the Mediterranean e.g. the Russian port in Syria, not to mention the possibility of invading parts of Syria etc.

I do not opine on this, I merely note the complexity.

Question: At some point do we not have to trust that Mattis knows best? 
202  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stolen Valor on FOX on: October 20, 2017, 01:53:57 PM
https://s2.washingtonpost.com/299ca/59ea1eeafe1ff6159ed37af5/Y3JhZnR5ZG9nQGRvZ2Jyb3RoZXJzLmNvbQ%3D%3D/8/119/1cd93351a621c9cb215c0c081ac150ab
203  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / For the record, , , on: October 20, 2017, 12:44:31 PM
second post

For the record, I would like to register my deep concern that by abandoning the Kurds, we are accepting that the Iranians will have uncontested control all the way to the Mediterranean; indeed with our active campaign against DAESH/ISIS under President Trump we have actively enabled this outcome!

It may well be that when Trump took office it was too late for the outcome to be otherwise, and certainly in Sec Def Mattis we have a man whose integrity, warrior spirit, leadership, and vision that we respect mightily , , , but , , ,

How are we going to get in Iran's face over the nuke deal given this context?

What meaning our friendship now given we look the other way instead of backing the Kurds?

I know this is all very complicated (the Kurds are fragemented, the implications with Turkey, etc etc) but I'm thinking this may prove to be a very big error.

IMHO it would have been better to back the Kurds, establish base(s) there, etc as the beginning of an Israeli-Jordanian-Kurd-Saudi alliance (Egypt joining in when it saw our intention.  (With the Kurds as a refueling point, Israeli options  against Iran increase dramatically too).

Note this article published in the Jordan Times:  http://www.jordantimes.com/news/region/defeat-daesh-raqqa-may-herald-wider-struggle-us

204  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Liberal Progressive Jewish mag laments abandonment of Kurds on: October 20, 2017, 12:34:28 PM
http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/247203/kurdistan-iran-united-states?utm_source=tabletmagazinelist&utm_campaign=a11c27f59b-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_10_18&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c308bf8edb-a11c27f59b-207194629
205  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / DBMA Tactical: Gun Knife Integration Seminar November 11-12 Bay area, CA on: October 20, 2017, 01:44:17 AM

DBMA Tactical Seminar: The Chupacabra Knife Game and Gun-Knife Integration

Featuring yours truly and a mystery gun instructor who must remain anonymous.

WHO: Military and LEO only, active or retired. If this is not you but you are well known to me and there are spaces available, you may be considered.

WHERE

Bay Area, CA.
 Day One: San Rafael (near San Quentin)
 Day Two: Private Gun Range in Point Reyes, Marin County.

HOW MUCH?
 $200 one day
 $300 two days

A first run "Akita" knife from Akita Tactical will be available for inspection.

If you are interested, please email me at craftydog@dogbrothers.com
206  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Transgender charged with raping ten year old girl in bathroom on: October 20, 2017, 01:39:44 AM
http://www.dailywire.com/news/22496/transgender-charged-raping-10yo-girl-bathroom-amanda-prestigiacomo?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_content=062316-news&utm_campaign=benshapiro
207  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Bush Presidency; GW Bush; the Bush Family on: October 19, 2017, 07:46:08 PM
Amen.
208  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Britain: Die Fatty, Die! on: October 19, 2017, 07:44:35 PM
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/10/17/nhs-provokes-fury-indefinite-surgery-ban-smokers-obese/
209  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Russian conspiracy, Comey, related matters on: October 19, 2017, 02:57:52 PM
Nice find.
210  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: October 19, 2017, 02:53:42 PM

"Since equality runs against the natural state of things, it requires coercion.  Oppression and tyranny are features, not bugs, of a socialist system."
211  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-Russia on: October 19, 2017, 12:51:56 PM
Regarding the Bush 43 Russian-US era, FWIW my take on it is this:

President Clinton split the difference on possible responses in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Empire, arguably coming up with the worse outcomes of each-- he didn't put the Russians away while they were weak, but instead did enough to piss them off (e.g. Yugoslavia) and persuade them to take  advantage of his failure to put them away.

When Bush 43 came in they Russians were already hard at work rebuilding their military and re-imposing on their near abroad.  With bandwidth consumed by the Iraq War, and Bush's polls at catastrophic levels, the Russians knew we would do jacksh*t when they invaded the Ossetia region of Georgia-- thus laying the groundwork for Crimea and east Ukraine.
212  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Trade Issues: on: October 19, 2017, 12:46:07 PM
Nice find.

213  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: October 19, 2017, 12:44:38 PM
Well, that's a wickedly made point  grin grin grin
214  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Celia, a slave on: October 19, 2017, 12:43:08 PM
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/10/19/missouri-v-celia-a-slave-she-killed-the-white-master-raping-her-then-claimed-self-defense/?undefined=&utm_term=.3b3a9ac55ee4&wpisrc=nl_most&wpmm=1
215  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The bee sting that drove Putin to seek revenge on: October 19, 2017, 11:18:40 AM
I can't say that this is something I would have opposed at the time , , ,

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/oct/18/vladimir-putins-rage-triggered-by-president-obamas/?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiT0RVM01HVm1ObVE0TldKaiIsInQiOiJwY2ExcEdjaW9VTWlVYkJXdXFhZUN3aW1TNW1XWGljTjNDdHFBQmtRaFh6QkdJY21BMGpJU3dGZnJHd2VYYW5VUkNDakRUc3lTdFwvaDFOdXR6eUhjSHQwS29tMjZnVGNwQVkwS0lER253aGpFXC9FNU5CQUpycGM4b0IrdkJUcXFUIn0%3D
216  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: ISIS in Marawi, Philippines on: October 18, 2017, 10:17:15 PM
Photos and maps at https://www.wsj.com/articles/inside-islamic-states-other-grisly-war-a-world-away-from-syria-1508337872


Inside Islamic State’s Other Grisly War, a World Away From Syria
Islamists in the Philippines pledged allegiance to ISIS, devastated a city and built a model for jihadists after the fall of Raqqa
Philippine troops during their assault against Islamist militants in Marawi in September.
By Jake Maxwell Watts | Photographs by
Linus Guardian Escandor II for The Wall Street Journal
Oct. 18, 2017 10:44 a.m. ET
11 COMMENTS
Link copied…

MARAWI, Philippines—On the third day of his captivity, during one of the most violent jihadist rebellions outside the Middle East and Africa, Ronnel Samiahan watched Islamist militants make an example of a fellow hostage who had tried to break free.

After dragging the conscious man onto the street and pulling his head up by the hair, the militants began sawing at his neck with a knife. Five minutes later, the executioner thrust the severed head toward the remaining hostages, warning, “If you try to escape, this is what is going to happen to you,” recalled Mr. Samiahan, a Christian local laborer.

Islamist militants took over this city of 200,000 people in late May, modeling themselves on Islamic State, or ISIS. Philippine soldiers, assisted by the U.S. military, struggled to reclaim it.

Inside the Philippines' Bloody War Against Islamist Militants

The Philippine military has struggled to defeat hundreds of well-armed militants who seized the southern city of Marawi in May. Photo: Linus Guardian Escandor II for The Wall Street Journal

Philippine authorities on Monday said two of the militants’ most senior leaders had been killed, including one on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists, and that it was a few days from securing the city. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday declared the city liberated.

The militants’ occupation—and the military’s siege—has left Marawi in ruins, with more than 1,000 soldiers, civilians and militants killed and many neighborhoods devastated by airstrikes. A few dozen militants remain in the city, the military said on Tuesday.



The Marawi battle shows how militant groups outside the Middle East and Africa are finding a template in Islamic State, not just as an exporter of terrorism, but also as a holder of territory. ISIS itself is looking for new beachheads having been pushed out of strongholds such as its de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, which U.S.-backed forces said they captured this week.

“They look around the globe,” said Colin Clarke, a counterterrorism researcher at Rand Corp., a policy think tank. “They try to find a place where there is an ongoing insurgency, and they latch themselves onto that cause and exploit those local grievances.”

President Duterte has voiced concern that violence could spread from Marawi to other areas in the southern Philippines. Analysts say revenge or copycat attacks are likely to strike Manila or other Southeast Asian capitals.

In mid-2016, ISIS called on potential new recruits unable to join it in the Middle East to look to the Philippines. ISIS media agencies have promoted the Marawi conflict to their followers.
e

A brief history of the Marawi conflict and the Islamist groups that sparked it.
Isnilon Hapilon and his Abu Sayyaf Islamist militant group kidnap tourists, later beheading some.
Hapilon swears allegiance to Islamic State, which later endorses him as "emir" in Southeast Asia.
Fighters from a newly emerging Islamist group in Mindanao, led by Omar and Abdullah Maute, occupy a town, later bomb Davao City.
Maute fighters swear allegiance to Islamic State, raid Marawi jail.
Hapilon and his group begin joining Maute fighters.
Philippine military mobilizes against militants in Marawi, beginning long siege as Maute fighters dig in, using improvised explosives and snipers.
Maute fighters flying Islamic State flags occupy Marawi, burning buildings, taking hostages.
A misaimed airstrike kills 11 Philippine soldiers as troops push militants to city's east.
The U.S. says it is providing special forces assistance to the Philippines.
Military takes back first of three key bridges, later retakes key buildings.
Military retakes remaining bridge. Earlier in the month, Philippine authorities say one Maute brother believed killed.
Philippine authorities say two remaining militant leaders killed; military declares battle nearly over.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declares Marawi liberated.

Sources: Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine Government, Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict

“It will be difficult to replicate a similar urban assault like Marawi in the short term,” said Francisco J. Lara, Philippines country manager of peace-building agency International Alert. “But the threat of a similar attack in the future remains real.”

Marawi is on Mindanao island, long known as a haven for extremists, from communist guerrillas to separatist Muslims. The U.S. for years has kept a small special forces contingent on the island.  The militants in Marawi, known as the Maute after the brothers who led them, Omar and Abdullah Maute, received funds from ISIS and modeled many of their tactics on the group, Philippine officials say. Their goal was to create a caliphate, or Islamic kingdom, with fighters from abroad including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, these officials say. Marawi was once a relatively prosperous trading hub, surrounded by hills and a lake. It is predominantly Muslim, with the minarets and domes of mosques. There is a small Catholic minority.

The siege

The tale of the Marawi battle—told by the Philippine military and witnesses on the ground, including former hostages—shows how ISIS-inspired militants can quickly consume a city far from its base and supply lines in the Middle East.


It began May 23. Soldiers and police moved in on a house after receiving intelligence showing the Maute brothers and another militant leader, Isnilon Hapilon, were hiding there. The military, which inadvertently interrupted a plan to occupy Marawi, found itself laying a siege that would last roughly five months.

Known for kidnapping and beheading foreigners from tourist resorts even before his ISIS affiliation, Mr. Hapilon is on the U.S. State Department’s most-wanted-terrorists list. In 2014, he swore allegiance to ISIS, which two years later endorsed him on its central media channel as its “emir,” or ruler, in Southeast Asia.

The Maute brothers were a lesser-understood threat. They were educated in Egypt and Jordan and from an elite local family, according to the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, a terror-research group in Jakarta. In 2016, they briefly occupied a town about a two-hour drive from Marawi. Their group later attacked a Marawi prison, releasing some of their captured fighters, and bombed a night market in Davao City, President Duterte’s hometown.

Before government troops could get close on May 23, they came under fire from several buildings and retreated. Soon, hundreds of heavily armed fighters who had infiltrated Marawi began flooding the streets, planting the black ISIS flag in public areas and taking hostages, primarily Christians and the Muslims who sought to protect them.

The militants torched a cathedral and a school. Photographs by residents show Maute fighters in dark clothing and hats or balaclavas patrolling streets and mounting ISIS flags on vehicles. Civilians fled to surrounding towns and to government-run refugee camps. President Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao.

A hostage’s tale

Mr. Samiahan, who witnessed the hostage’s execution, had lived in Marawi for five years. His family of seven slipped out the back of their house after darkness and hid in the tall grass of an adjacent field as Maute fighters, yelling in triumph, set fire to the next-door Dansalan College, a Christian school.

The family spent the night huddled in the rain as Maute fighters shined flashlights across the grassy field. They were so close, Mr. Samiahan’s wife, Yolanda, said, “you could almost shake their hands.”

Ronnel Samiahan, 34, here with his son Greg, witnessed a beheading during his captivity by the Islamist militants.


In following days, they hid in a hospital and other buildings before deciding no rescue was coming. Attempting to leave the militant-controlled part of the city, they were stopped at a Maute checkpoint. There, militants tested residents to see if they were Muslim or Christian: Only those who could reply to a Muslim greeting in Arabic were allowed to leave.

Mr. Samiahan, unlike most of his relatives, failed the test and was locked in a warehouse. On his second night, one captive tried to loosen his bonds while the Maute were sleeping. When fighters discovered the ruse, they performed the beheading and forced the remaining hostages to bury the head, Mr. Samiahan said.

It took the military several days to mobilize and push Maute fighters back from western portions of the city and liberate the city hall and hydroelectric dams that provide most of Marawi’s power. The Maute fought back fiercely, killing several troops.

By May 28, bodies of at least 16 civilians had been recovered, according to military officials, including those of eight men who were dumped in a ravine—the number had climbed to at least 47 late last week. Several were shot in the head with hands bound, accompanied by a sign in a local language reading “traitor,” according to local media reports.

The Agus river separated the battle zone, left, and the safe zone in Marawi.

The Agus River bisects Marawi, with the central business district and Marawi’s largest mosque and church in the Maute-controlled east. Maute fighters fortified three bridges, presenting a formidable obstacle to the military’s counteroffensive, and soldiers who tried crossing were met with sniper fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

The military, unused to urban warfare, called in airstrikes. Lacking guided munitions, the Philippine military divebombed the city with FA-50 jets and OV-10 Bronco propeller aircraft. On May 31, a badly aimed airstrike killed 11 soldiers. Government officials called it a tragic incident and launched a review.

In early June, the U.S. disclosed it was providing special forces assistance to Philippine troops but didn’t elaborate.

The constant aerial bombardment devastated Marawi’s center. Businessman Solaiman Mangorsi, 58, said he lost nearly $600,000 in damaged property after bombs struck areas that included a bookstore and other properties he owned. He said he wasn’t insured.

By mid-June, the battle had become a grind, with both sides digging in. Militants avoided airstrikes by boring holes in walls so they could move from house to house undetected.

A Christian hostage, Lordvin Acopio, a 29-year-old teacher, said militants forced him and other captives to make improvised explosives from firecrackers and shrapnel. They sent other hostages to search houses for guns, food and ammunition.

As the weeks passed, more hostages escaped. Mr. Samiahan, who witnessed the execution, broke free after discovering a padlock wasn’t properly closed. He made a mad dash for the military-held portion of the city, leaping over concrete barriers and plunging into the river and to safety.

Mr. Acopio escaped at night after a mosque he was held in was bombarded with tear gas. He and a priest scrambled through a hole blasted in the building, he said, and “just ran and ran and ran.”

Teacher Lordvin Acopio, 29, was held hostage by militants he says forced him to make improvised explosives.

By early September, the military had achieved several key victories, taking back landmarks including Marawi’s largest mosque. And it concluded, based on intercepted terrorist chatter, that Abdullah Maute had been killed in late August. By September’s end they had retaken the remaining bridges and pushed the militants into a few blocks bordering the lake.

The final battles were fought in close quarters. In one mission, Sgt. Roderick Peruandos of the Philippine Marine Corps, led a team to clear houses on the approach to what is known as the “White Mosque,” where senior militants including Mr. Hapilon were believed to be holding out. Moving room to room, they spotted a hole in the floor, when suddenly a homemade grenade was tossed out.

One corporal, who celebrated his 27th birthday with his squad just a few weeks earlier, was killed almost instantly, said Sgt. Peruandos. The grenade was made, he said, out of scrounged shrapnel and explosives from firecrackers and unexploded bombs dropped during airstrikes.

The other marines fled, leaving Sgt. Peruandos alone to fend off insurgents with rifle fire as he wrapped a tourniquet around his wounded leg. After an hour of bombardment, he crawled to safety, a bone in his leg snapped in two. The insurgents, though weakened, were left secure in their redoubt.

The government on Monday said Omar Maute and Mr. Hapilon had been killed, and the military said its offensive had boxed the remaining militant-controlled area to one or two hectares. The bodies of the two leaders were recovered and the remaining 30-odd fighters “were seen scampering in disarray,” the military said.
Displaced people from Marawi at an evacuation camp in Pantar district, southern Philippines. Photos: Linus Guardian Escandor II for The Wall Street Journal(3)

If Marawi is declared militant-free, the Philippine government will then face painstaking work clearing improvised explosive devices and rebuilding the city. Tens of thousands of displaced people whose homes were destroyed remain in government-run camps.

Sgt. Peruandos, who has fought communist rebels and gangs in Mindanao for nearly all his 15-year military career, said he had never encountered an enemy like those who nearly killed him in Marawi. “It’s like they don’t care for their lives,” he said. “They just want to kill or be killed.”

After authorities declared the militant leaders dead, a pro-ISIS messenger channel said the group would train new recruits with combat knowledge learned from the battle, according to SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist activity online. The channel declared: “Marawi is just the beginning!”

A government soldier took up position in the battle area of Marawi in September.
217  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Caveat Lector: Arsonist protected from ICE detainer in CA? on: October 18, 2017, 09:59:58 PM
Its Breitbart, so caveat lector

http://www.breitbart.com/california/2017/10/17/ice-detainer-issued-for-suspected-wine-country-arsonist-in-sonoma-jail/

218  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: North and South Korea on: October 18, 2017, 02:42:33 PM
"He looks like 50% of every lesbian couple I have ever met in real life."

I bow to the GM of snark, our very own GM!  cheesy
219  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: North and South Korea on: October 18, 2017, 02:14:18 PM
My snark, or his analysis?  cheesy
220  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Morris on hardening the US grid on: October 18, 2017, 12:31:34 PM
http://www.dickmorris.com/emp-north-korea-threatens-congress-dawdles-lunch-alert/?utm_source=dmreports&utm_medium=dmreports&utm_campaign=dmreports
221  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morris: Congress dawdles on NORK EMP threat on: October 18, 2017, 12:28:01 PM
Dick Morris never met a subject on which he is not an expert, but he makes a point which we here have been making for some time now.

http://www.dickmorris.com/emp-north-korea-threatens-congress-dawdles-lunch-alert/?utm_source=dmreports&utm_medium=dmreports&utm_campaign=dmreports
222  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Security Guard Jesus Campos reappears on: October 18, 2017, 11:58:41 AM
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/10/18/mandalay-bay-security-guard-jesus-campos-resurfaces-on-ellen-degeneres-show/?undefined=&utm_term=.32de22fc68c2&wpisrc=nl_most&wpmm=1
223  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Corruption, Sleaze, Skullduggery, and Treason on: October 17, 2017, 07:15:27 PM
Here's more:

http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2017/10/bombshell-revelations-about-russia-and-obamas-department-of-justice.php
224  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama DOJ knew of Russian bribery for US uranium on: October 17, 2017, 07:15:00 PM
http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2017/10/bombshell-revelations-about-russia-and-obamas-department-of-justice.php
225  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama DOJ knew of Russian bribery for US uranium on: October 17, 2017, 07:14:38 PM
http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2017/10/bombshell-revelations-about-russia-and-obamas-department-of-justice.php
226  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Yet another fake hate crime on: October 17, 2017, 02:01:04 PM
https://pjmedia.com/trending/2017/10/16/suspect-arrested-campus-graffiti-swastika-black-ex-employee/
227  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 11/4/17 CA firearm law seminar on: October 17, 2017, 01:41:27 PM


http://mailchi.mp/471c0bed3a54/gun-laws-for-gun-owners-seminar?e=0332f322fa
228  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Citizens United-- the disaster that wasn't on: October 17, 2017, 01:27:22 PM
The Citizens United Disaster That Wasn’t
Critics warned that a flood of corporate money would irreparably taint politics. No such thing happened.
Photo: Getty Images
By Floyd Abrams
Oct. 16, 2017 6:56 p.m. ET
101 COMMENTS

When the Supreme Court announced its 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the public condemnation from certain quarters was fierce. The notion that a corporation would spend large sums of money to support or denounce a political candidate struck many Americans as deeply troubling. Some saw the court’s 5-4 ruling, which held that corporate political spending is protected by the First Amendment, as constituting a grave threat to the democratic fabric of society.

“Starting today, corporations with large war chests to deploy on electioneering may find democratically elected bodies becoming much more attuned to their interests,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in a 90-page dissenting opinion. He retired from the Supreme Court at the end of that term and later suggested a constitutional amendment to overturn the ruling.

Many of Citizens United’s harshest critics imagined a nation controlled by multibillion-dollar corporations that would dictate business-friendly legislation to paid-for lawmakers. A New York Times editorial predicted that the ruling would “thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century” by allowing “corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections.” The Washington Post warned that “corporate money, never lacking in the American political process, may now overwhelm both the contributions of individuals and the faith they may harbor in their democracy.” The San Francisco Chronicle warned that “voters should prepare for the worst: cash-drenched elections presided over by free-spending corporations.”

Since those predictions, two presidential and four congressional elections have come and gone. There’s now solid data, filed with the Federal Election Commission, showing how much money corporations have spent in recent elections. It turns out the apocalyptic forecasts were not just inaccurate but utterly insupportable.
WSJ

It is true that in the wake of Citizens United many groups sprang up that are permitted to spend unlimited sums supporting or opposing candidates and issues. These so-called super PACs have proved themselves a political force. But the money they have spent since 2010 has not come primarily—or even mostly—from corporations.

Super PACs across the political spectrum raised $1.8 billion between Jan. 1, 2015, and Dec. 31, 2016, according to data analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics. Of that, $1.04 billion came from individual donors and $242 million from unions, trade associations, politically active nonprofits and other organizations. Only $85 million was contributed by business corporations. The table nearby shows the top 20 donors. Among the Top 40 contributors to super PACs during the 2016 election cycle were eight unions and only one corporation.

These numbers do not include donations to campaigns from corporate political action committees. That money comes not from the corporate treasury but from people employed by the company or otherwise connected to it. In any event, corporate PAC donations are on the small side compared with the numbers above—$1.9 million to presidential candidates in 2008 (before Citizens United), $855,348 in 2012 and $942,116 in 2016.

The data suggest two conclusions. The first was summarized by Brooklyn Law School Professor Joel Gora after the 2012 election: “The predicted wave of corporate financial political intervention never materialized. Of all of the super PAC independent expenditure spending that escalated in the 2012 election, very little of it came from corporate contributions.” That remained true in 2016 and probably will into the foreseeable future.

The second is that corporations remain conservative—with a small “c.” Fear of public disapproval limits their appetite for potential controversy, so they do their best to steer clear of high-profile political entanglements. A comment often attributed to Michael Jordan captures this attitude: “Republicans buy sneakers, too.” The unwillingness of large corporations to offend their actual or desired customers is difficult to overstate.

Despite the bombastic rhetoric and dire predictions, corporations and their vast treasuries have not dominated elections post-Citizens United. In fact, corporations have donated a comparatively small percentage of the money spent in political campaigns since 2010. It would be nice if those who expected a darker world would acknowledge that fact.

Mr. Abrams represented Sen. Mitch McConnell in the Citizens United case and participated in oral argument in the Supreme Court. An extended version of this article will appear as a chapter in “The Free Speech Century,” to be published next year by Oxford University Press.

Appeared in the October 17, 2017, print edition.
229  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GPF: The Global Consensus Against the Iraqi Kurds on: October 17, 2017, 01:23:44 PM
second post:

The Global Consensus Against the Iraqi Kurds
Oct 17, 2017

 
By Kamran Bokhari

Iraqi government forces took control of the Kurdish-dominated city of Kirkuk on Oct. 16, part of a growing dispute between the Kurdistan Regional Government, which held an independence referendum last month, and the government in Baghdad. While Iraq’s disintegration as a country has been apparent for years now, this latest dispute indicates that the situation isn’t going to get any better. It’s unlikely that Iraqi Kurdistan will achieve independence, even though the majority of voters supported independence. What’s more, this issue has drawn in a number other countries, most notably Turkey and Iran, which encouraged Baghdad to quell the growing Kurdish separatist movement.

Long at Odds

The latest reports suggest that Baghdad’s security forces are facing little resistance from the forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government, which governs Iraq’s northern Kurdish region. The KRG has controlled the oil-rich Kirkuk province, just south of Iraqi Kurdistan, since 2014, when Iraqi forces abandoned the area as Islamic State fighters approached. Iraqi soldiers have now taken over key energy and military installations. Much of this can be blamed on divisions among the Iraqi Kurds themselves – the region’s second-largest party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, cut a deal with Baghdad and Tehran and withdrew its forces from the region when the Iraqi army advanced. The move comes three weeks after 93 percent of Iraqi Kurds voted in favor of independence in a referendum held by the KRG, which wants to form an independent Kurdistan that would include areas well south of the current autonomous Kurdish region, including Kirkuk.
 
Members of the Iraqi Kurdish security forces stand guard at a checkpoint in Altun Kupri, 25 miles south of Irbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq on Oct. 16, 2017. SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images

Baghdad and Irbil have long been at odds. After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, Washington helped the country devise a new political system that would allow the Shiites – who are a majority in Iraq – to dominate the central government and the Kurds to enjoy regional autonomy. But this new polity suffered from two main flaws. First, it marginalized the Sunni minority, which led to a massive insurgency that resulted in the rise of the Islamic State. Second, it led to a bitter struggle between the Shiites and the Kurds, as the Kurds continued to push for more autonomy, especially over the right to export hydrocarbons and expand their power southward.

For many years, the friction between the Shiites and the Iraqi Kurds was contained because of the Sunni insurgent threat. The two sides engaged in multiple rounds of negotiations to resolve their dispute over control of oil and gas resources and revenue sharing. But they were never able to reach an agreement. Landlocked, the KRG needed partners to help it export oil without the assistance of the central government; it therefore forged close ties with bordering Turkey.

Baghdad was furious with both Irbil and Ankara, but it could do little to disrupt the arrangement between the Iraqi Kurds and the Turks. This became the status quo, until the Islamic State emerged in 2014 and seized Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul. When the Iraqi army retreated from Mosul, which is just south of Iraqi Kurdistan, it presented both a threat and an opportunity for the Kurds.

It was a threat because it left the Kurds vulnerable to an IS attack. It was an opportunity because the departure of Iraqi forces from the region could allow KRG forces to seize additional territory. The failure of the Islamic State to expand into Kirkuk left this region firmly under the KRG’s control. After a three-year struggle, the liberation of Mosul last July created the conditions for the Kurds to make a move toward full sovereignty. And with the IS threat receding, the conflict between the Shiites and the Kurds became the biggest challenge facing the country.

Broader Implications

If Iraqi Kurdistan were to move from being an autonomous region in Iraq to an independent state, it would have serious implications for the security of neighboring states, especially Turkey and Iran – the region’s two strongest powers. The Turks and the Iranians are locked in a long-term struggle for influence in Iraq and Syria, as well as the wider Middle East. When Turkey helped the KRG with energy exports, it was actually an attempt to counter the influence of Iran, which sees the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad as an ally.

But when it comes to Kurdish independence, the Turks and the Iranians actually have some interests in common. Both countries have their own Kurdish separatist movements – although the movement is stronger in Turkey, which has the largest Kurdish population of any country in the Middle East. They both, therefore, opposed the Iraqi Kurds’ move toward independence. It would be in both their interests for the Iraqi government to retake Kirkuk.

Buoyed by Turkey and Iran, Baghdad is pushing ahead to contain the Iraqi Kurds. It is also deeply encouraged by the fact that the United States opposes the Kurdish move toward sovereignty. The KRG has been a key ally of Washington – in many ways, a far closer partner than the Iraqi central government given Baghdad’s close ties with Tehran. But Kurdish independence is not in the American interest because it would further aggravate the existing conflicts in the region. If Washington supported the creation of an independent Kurdistan in Iraq, it could encourage the Kurds in Syria and Turkey to also push for independence, which would create far more problems between Turkey and the United States.

The U.S. will therefore try to mediate a truce between Baghdad and Irbil, but it will mainly try to stay out of the issue as it did when Iraqi forces took Kirkuk from the KRG. Turkey and Iran will be much more deeply involved given that it has more direct implications for them. Both want to prevent the Iraqi Kurds from claiming independence and from expanding southward. But that is the extent of their shared objectives.

In the end, the Iraqi Kurds will remain pawns in the power struggle between regional and global powers. As for Iraq, it will continue to be a failed state – internationally recognized as a country but effectively unable to act like one.

The post The Global Consensus Against the Iraqi Kurds appeared first on Geopolitical Futures.



230  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Iraq-Iran's assault on the Kurds on: October 17, 2017, 01:20:02 PM
Assault on the Kurds
Defeat for the U.S. allies in northern Iraq is a victory for Iran.
Iraqi forces advance towards the city of Kirkuk during an operation against Kurdish fighters, Oct 16.
Iraqi forces advance towards the city of Kirkuk during an operation against Kurdish fighters, Oct 16. Photo: ahmad al-rubaye/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
By The Editorial Board
Oct. 16, 2017 7:01 p.m. ET
156 COMMENTS

A central tenet of the Trump foreign policy, a work in progress, has been that the U.S. would rebuild its relationship with America’s allies. That commitment is being put to the test in northern Iraq.

On Monday Iraq’s army, assisted by Iranian forces, launched a major assault on the Kurds in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk. Across the length of America’s recent history with Iraq, we have had no more reliable ally than Iraq’s Kurds and their fighting force, the Peshmerga.

So far the Trump Administration has said little about the attack on the Kurds. “We’re not taking sides, but we don’t like the fact that they’re clashing,” President Trump told reporters at the White House Monday. “We’ve had, for many years, a very good relationship with the Kurds, as you know. And we’ve also been on the side of Iraq, even though we should have never been in there in the first place. But we’re not taking sides in that battle.”

But if the U.S. allows one of its most visible allies to be defeated in the Middle East, make no mistake: Other allies in the region will notice and start to recalculate their relationship with the Trump Administration.

The Iraqi Kurds, to be sure, have contributed to their current plight. Kurdish President Masoud Barzani went forward with a needless independence referendum last month, despite pressure from the U.S. not to hold the vote. The pro-forma vote gave the Baghdad government a pretext to play the nationalist card and retake Kirkuk.

Kirkuk is a multi-ethnic city that lies just south of Iraq’s Kurdistan, an autonomous region whose borders abut Iran and Turkey. The Kirkuk region is also rich in oil. The Kurds gained control of Kirkuk in 2014 after Iraq’s army famously fled under attack from Islamic State, which seized control of Mosul in June that year.

After the Iraqi forces abandoned the region, the Peshmerga became the primary reason that Islamic State was never able to consolidate its control of northern Iraq. Arguably, the Kurds, backed by U.S. air power, saved Iraq by giving Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi time to reconstitute his nation’s army into a fighting force capable of driving Islamic State out of Iraq’s major cities, with the help of the Peshmerga.

Possibly the phrase “no good deed goes unpunished” originated in the Middle East. Having taken back Mosul from Islamic State, Mr. Abadi now wants to drive the Kurds back into their northern Iraqi homeland. But the strategic details of this attack on the Kurds are important. Iraq’s offensive includes Iran. According to the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, Iranian-backed militias and the 9th Iraqi Armored Division moved toward Kirkuk last week to support the Iraqi army.

The Abadi government in Baghdad is under constant pressure from Shiite Iran to align itself against the interest of Iraq’s Sunni populations in the north and west. It follows that after Iraq’s progress on the battlefield against Islamic State, Iran would encourage the Iraqis to drive the Kurds out of Kirkuk.

Notice this is all happening within days of President Trump decertifying the Iran nuclear deal, based in part on the assumption that Europe will support U.S. efforts to resist Iran’s ballistic-missile program and its penetrations across the Middle East. But what will the Europeans or our allies in the Middle East conclude if we abandon one of our oldest regional allies, the Iraqi Kurds?

The U.S. no doubt has lost much of the political leverage it had before the Obama Administration pulled out of Iraq in 2011. But abandoning the Kurds to an Iraq-Iran Shiite alliance would only deepen U.S. losses.

Before Iraq and the Kurds go to war, the U.S. could insist that Iraq reaffirm the autonomy of Iraqi Kurdistan and also that it work out an agreement to share revenue from the region’s oil reserves. The alternative to such a modus vivendi for Prime Minister Abadi is a capable Kurdish fighting force in a state of permanent insurrection.

The U.S. owes a debt to the Kurds. Abandoning them now would damage America’s credibility, and not least Mr. Trump’s ability to enlist allies against Iran’s expansion across the Middle East. The assault on Kirkuk matters.
231  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The US Congress; Congressional races on: October 17, 2017, 11:26:30 AM
I too dislike McCain, but IMHO his having brain cancer does not enter the conversation.
232  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / MD State Bar under Hillary's control? on: October 17, 2017, 11:21:03 AM
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/oct/16/maryland-defend-hillary-clinton-lawyers-cheryl-mil/?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWm1JMlkyUTBaRGxrTjJNNCIsInQiOiJyS0ZxUjNLUkVnOFIxNjJKQkFMWDZrTmpOaFFJalN6ZXdLUnZVTndBcEw1TEllSG41XC9Pbmt2UmlyZlVMYkwwTkZGY1VpUk5MSzBsVVd0QVBzMlhcL3c5Q0JyZVFSazg2ZjdXSlwvSWxiWFRKdFpHMHhXZHpCK1RyYXlkTktHUmJcL0IifQ%3D%3D
233  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / MD State Bar under Hillary's control? on: October 17, 2017, 11:20:39 AM
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/oct/16/maryland-defend-hillary-clinton-lawyers-cheryl-mil/?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWm1JMlkyUTBaRGxrTjJNNCIsInQiOiJyS0ZxUjNLUkVnOFIxNjJKQkFMWDZrTmpOaFFJalN6ZXdLUnZVTndBcEw1TEllSG41XC9Pbmt2UmlyZlVMYkwwTkZGY1VpUk5MSzBsVVd0QVBzMlhcL3c5Q0JyZVFSazg2ZjdXSlwvSWxiWFRKdFpHMHhXZHpCK1RyYXlkTktHUmJcL0IifQ%3D%3D
234  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Look at who funded Bill's legal defense fund! on: October 16, 2017, 11:34:42 PM
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/oct/16/bill-clinton-caught-harvey-weinstein-sexual-assaul/?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTkdKak0yRTRPRE15TkRGaSIsInQiOiIxSlVjQWxwcXJ4Nm8zcklVWENSSEhidHE0dTNkMWpCTDM5NDQxamJKamI0dENEeG15MnlOdkVGaTRKMWZERjNmUm9XMkVwUkVBTGhjZ3IwXC9kcUlVQko4alN4K1NJNjYrbEg4YmQ4Mm5RK1RFQTR3ek1PWUxmWHN5NUVuK1pjOHAifQ%3D%3D
235  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: North and South Korea on: October 16, 2017, 04:25:44 PM
Yes, of course.

So, what is our bullet point response?
236  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / JW: WTF? Tillerson State Dept. and Sessions DOJ protecting Hillary?!? on: October 16, 2017, 04:24:32 PM
Second post

https://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-court-overrules-trump-administration-objections-will-review-state-department-clinton-petraeus-emails/?utm_source=deployer&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tipsheet&utm_term=members&utm_content=20171016212213
237  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / JW: number of ICE detainers denied on: October 16, 2017, 04:21:49 PM
https://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-new-homeland-security-documents-reveal-sanctuary-cities-denied-284-ice-detainers-three-months-released-illegal-aliens-charged-assaults-drug-weapons-violations/?utm_source=deployer&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tipsheet&utm_term=members&utm_content=20171016211944
238  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gorsuch surprises Libs on: October 16, 2017, 03:00:14 PM
Gorsuch Joins Court’s Liberals Over Protections for Criminal Defendants
Case explores whether defendants give up all rights to appeal after entering a plea bargain
By Jess Bravin
Oct. 4, 2017 6:23 p.m. ET




WASHINGTON—Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s appointee to the Supreme Court, joined liberal colleagues Wednesday in sharply questioning government arguments that criminal defendants forfeit all rights to appeal after entering a plea bargain.

Since his April appointment, Justice Gorsuch’s remarks and votes nearly always have placed him on the court’s right. This week’s arguments suggested, however, that like his late predecessor, Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Gorsuch’s legal philosophy sometimes may lead him to split with fellow conservatives and back procedural protections for criminal defendants.


Wednesday’s case involved Ronald Class, a High Shoals, N.C., retiree who in May 2013 illegally parked his Jeep Wrangler in a U.S. Capitol lot. Police found the vehicle contained several loaded weapons, including a 9mm Ruger pistol, a .44-caliber Taurus pistol and a .44- caliber Henry rifle. Although he had a North Carolina concealed weapons permit, Mr. Class was arrested under a federal law prohibiting guns on the Capitol grounds.

According to the government’s brief, Mr. Class told Federal Bureau of Investigation agents that “he was a ‘Constitutional Bounty Hunter ’ and a ‘Private Attorney General’ who traveled the nation with guns and other weapons to enforce federal criminal law against judges whom he believed had acted unlawfully.”

Mr. Class later reached a plea bargain with prosecutors and was sentenced to 24 days’ imprisonment and a year of supervised release. Although plea bargains typically restrict appeals from defendants, Mr. Class then sought to have his conviction overturned on several grounds, including that he had a Second Amendment right to take his guns to the Capitol.

A federal appeals court dismissed the appeal in an unsigned order, noting that Mr. Class had told the trial judge he understood the plea bargain required him to forgo all but a few technical forms of appeal. But on Wednesday, an attorney for Mr. Class said that Supreme Court precedents established that defendants retained the right to raise constitutional claims even after pleading guilty.

A Justice Department attorney, Eric Feigin, argued that the government was entitled to assume Mr. Class had waived all appeals. “There’s a serious information imbalance here. Only the defendant knows what kinds of claims he might want to bring after a guilty plea and in what respects he doesn’t intend his guilty plea to be final,” he told the court.


Justice Gorsuch appeared incredulous. “Mr. Feigin, is this information asymmetry problem a suggestion that the government lacks sufficient bargaining power in the plea bargaining process?” he asked.

“No, your honor,” Mr. Feigin said.

Federal and state prosecutors win more than 90% of criminal cases without persuading a jury; defendants nearly always agree to plead guilty under threat of harsher punishment should they be convicted after opting for a trial.

Picking up on a question by Justice Stephen Breyer, Justice Gorsuch suggested that a defendant who pleads guilty admits the factual allegations in an indictment—but not that those actions necessarily are illegal.

“You’re admitting to what’s in the indictment. Isn’t that maybe the most natural and historically consistent understanding of what a guilty plea is?” Justice Gorsuch said.

Justice Gorsuch’s remarks Wednesday followed similar pro-defendant positions he took Monday. That case involved a Filipino with permanent U.S. residency who had been convicted of burglary and who argued that the criteria Congress adopted authorizing deportation of immigrants for committing violent crimes were unconstitutionally vague.

Wednesday’s other case, involving a lawsuit by 16 partygoers alleging they were improperly arrested by Washington, D.C., police, may have been more illuminating about some justices’ personal experiences than their views on constitutional law.

One question involved whether police legitimately could assume from the threadbare décor and detritus on the floor that the partygoers were using a vacant home without permission. Justice Gorsuch, who recently has relocated to the Washington area from Colorado, appeared concerned that could put new tenants in legal jeopardy.





“We all live with folding chairs for a period of time when we move,” he said.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor challenged whether the mess the officers found was legally significant. “What happens during a party? ” she said. “Disarray. So what was different in this disarray from a party? ”

Justice Breyer suggested that the revelers would have no reason to doubt that they lacked the owner’s permission to gather at the house.

“Younger people frequently say, ‘Hey, there’s a party at Joe’s house.’ And before you know it, 50 people go to Joe’s house,” said Justice Breyer, 79 years old. “I would think the people who went over there, whether they knew Joe, heard it secondhand, thirdhand or whatever, are normally, naturally going to think that Joe has a right to the house.”

Justice Kagan questioned whether the alleged presence of marijuana smoke and alcohol indicated criminal activity in the house.

“From the partygoers’ point of view, they just know that Joe is having a big party, and it’s a good time, and—and maybe there will be some liquor and maybe there will be some recreational drugs,” she said.

“There are these parties that once, long ago, I used to be invited to,” she said, to the courtroom’s laughter. “Where you didn’t know the host, but you know Joe is having a party. And can I say that long, long ago, marijuana was maybe present at those parties?” she said.

Decisions in the cases—Class v. U.S., Sessions v. Dimaya and District of Columbia v. Wesby—are expected before July.
239  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury GDP growth looking good. on: October 16, 2017, 02:52:23 PM
GDP Growth Looking Good To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 10/16/2017

Next week, government statisticians will release the first estimate for third quarter real GDP growth. In spite of hurricanes, and continued negativity by conventional wisdom, we expect 2.8% growth.

If we're right about the third quarter, real GDP will be up 2.2% from a year ago, which is exactly equal to the growth rate since the beginning of this recovery back in 2009. Looking at these four-quarter or eight-year growth rates, many people argue that the economy is still stuck in the mud.

But, we think looking in the rear view mirror misses positive developments. The economy hasn't turned into a thoroughbred, but the plowing is easier. Regulations are being reduced, federal employment growth has slowed (even declined) and monetary policy remains extremely loose with some evidence that a more friendly business environment is lifting monetary velocity.

Early signs suggest solid near 3% growth in the fourth quarter as well. Put it all together and we may be seeing an acceleration toward the 2.5 – 3.0% range for underlying trend economic growth. Less government interference frees up entrepreneurship and productivity growth powered by new technology. Yes, the Fed is starting to normalize policy and, yes, Congress can't seem to legislate itself out of a paper bag, but fiscal and monetary policy together are still pointing toward a good environment for growth.

Here's how we get to 2.8% for Q3.

Consumption: Automakers reported car and light truck sales rose at a 7.6% annual rate in Q3. "Real" (inflation-adjusted) retail sales outside the auto sector grew at a 2% rate, and growth in services was moderate. Our models suggest real personal consumption of goods and services, combined, grew at a 2.3% annual rate in Q3, contributing 1.6 points to the real GDP growth rate (2.3 times the consumption share of GDP, which is 69%, equals 1.6).

Business Investment: Looks like another quarter of growth in overall business investment in Q3, with investment in equipment growing at about a 9% annual rate, investment in intellectual property growing at a trend rate of 5%, but with commercial constriction declining for the first time this year. Combined, it looks like they grew at a 4.9% rate, which should add 0.6 points to the real GDP growth. (4.9 times the 13% business investment share of GDP equals 0.6).

Home Building: Home building was likely hurt by the major storms in Q3 and should bounce back in the fourth quarter and remain on an upward trend for at least the next couple of years. In the meantime, we anticipate a drop at a 2.6% annual rate in Q3, which would subtract from the real GDP growth rate. (-2.6 times the home building share of GDP, which is 4%, equals -0.1).

Government: Military spending was up in Q3 but public construction projects were soft for the quarter. On net, we're estimating that real government purchases were down at a 1.2% annual rate in Q3, which would subtract 0.2 points from the real GDP growth rate. (1.2 times the government purchase share of GDP, which is 17%, equals -0.2).

Trade: At this point, we only have trade data through August. Based on what we've seen so far, it looks like net exports should subtract 0.2 points from the real GDP growth rate in Q3.

Inventories: We have even less information on inventories than we do on trade, but what we have so far suggests companies are stocking shelves and showrooms at a much faster pace in Q3 than they were in Q2, which should add 1.1 points to the real GDP growth rate.

More data this week – on industrial production, durable goods, trade deficits, and inventories – could change our forecast. But, for now, we get an estimate of 2.8%. Not bad at all.
240  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sanctions on IRGC on: October 16, 2017, 02:50:14 PM
https://clarionproject.org/us-treasury-crippling-sanctions-irgc/
241  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morris: President Trump learning to be effective president on: October 16, 2017, 02:47:46 PM
http://www.dickmorris.com/trump-learned-president-lunch-alert/?utm_source=dmreports&utm_medium=dmreports&utm_campaign=dmreports
242  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Baghdad takes advantage of Kurd discord to seize various assets on: October 16, 2017, 02:41:18 PM
second post

Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have quickly captured critical infrastructure points in Iraq's Kirkuk province and in the surrounding areas. After beginning its operation overnight Oct. 15, the Iraqi military has reportedly taken control of the North Oil Company and North Gas Company headquarters, Kurdistan's K1 military base, the Bai Hassan oil field and the Baba Gurgur and Avanah domes of the Kirkuk oil field. Currently, the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) claims to still hold some of the oil fields in the area.

The Iraqi government's purpose for the operation is to reassert federal control over the disputed province of Kirkuk's most strategic assets, which fell under the control of the Kurdish peshmerga after the Islamic State rose to power there in 2014. But the pace of the ISF's advance appears to have been hastened by newly exposed splits within both the two main Kurdish political parties and the region's powerful but divided peshmerga military.
Iraq's Kurds, A Divided People

For years, the political scene in Iraqi Kurdistan has been dominated by two parties: the KDP, which is closely associated with the powerful Barzani family, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which is tied to the similarly powerful Talabani family. In the Kurdistan Regional Government, the KDP is the ruling party, but in the eastern portions of Iraqi Kurdistan — including the heavily disputed province of Kirkuk — the PUK is dominant. Moreover, Kurdistan's peshmerga forces are divided between loyalty to the KDP and to the PUK. The majority of the region's peshmerga units remain directly controlled by either PUK or KDP political bureaus, and only a few report to the politically blended KRG government itself.

These differing chains of command have led to conflict. Soon after the start of last night's ISF advance, peshmerga forces under the control of the PUK reportedly received orders to withdraw from Kirkuk and to allow Baghdad's forces to take control of various installations. These events may have been the result of a prearranged agreement between the PUK's leadership — or, at least its Talabani factions — and the central government in Baghdad, which the Talabani family has courted closely. The Iraqi Oil Ministry's statement that both sides of the conflict agreed to avoid fighting around Kirkuk's oil fields provides further evidence that a deal was struck with the PUK.

The PUK's decision to withdraw has earned it intense criticism from the KDP, which has been sending in more KDP peshmerga brigades to reinforce Kurdish positions in Kirkuk. Right now, the PUK and the KDP seem more divided than ever, and there is a high risk of intra-Kurdish conflict during the coming days and weeks. In addition to reports of fighting between Kurdish and Iraqi forces, there have been indications of conflict between the PUK and the KDP's respective arms of the peshmerga. Eyewitnesses even report Kurdish civilians angrily protesting the perceived departure of PUK peshmerga forces from Kirkuk.
Increasing Uncertainty

In the aftermath of last month's Kurdish independence referendum, the Talabani-led faction of the PUK has pushed to work closely with Baghdad, believing the referendum was an attempt for Kurdish President Masoud Barzani to consolidate political control. Indeed, Bafel Talabani, the son of recently deceased PUK leader Jalal Talabani, went on television Oct. 12 to call for a de-escalation of conflict between Arbil and Baghdad and to urge the creation of a joint administration between the two that would run Kirkuk. However, it also appears that some of the PUK's peshmerga are more loyal to a splinter faction of the group led by Kosrat Rasul. These forces have actually been working alongside the KDP, reinforcing the group's positions in Kirkuk.

It is possible that Baghdad's moves in Kirkuk province were not initially intended to culminate in seizing the city itself. Statements by PUK-linked officials suggested that the goal was to take over the K1 military base on the outskirts of the city, as well as the oil and natural gas fields located in the province's hinterlands. But strong military pushback from the Kurds could have led to an operational decision to make a move onto the city — something the PUK might not have bargained when it made its alleged deal with Baghdad. And at this point, an Iraqi or Kurdish civil conflict could be on its way, whether any party intended it.

In the coming days, outside powers including the United States will likely try to exert pressure on Baghdad and Arbil to end the conflict. Meanwhile, Turkey has said that it backs Baghdad's moves against the Kurds, despite the fact that it has supported the KRG against Baghdad in the past. Turkey's choice can be attributed to its contentious relationship with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has also reportedly become involved in Kirkuk, as well as Turkey's overall disapproval of Iraqi Kurdistan gaining greater autonomy. The PKK was one of the Kurdish units to remain at the frontlines against the Islamic State the longest, and the group has even called for Kurds looking for an alternative means of resistance to join the PKK instead of the peshmerga. The more active the PKK becomes in the dispute, the more support Turkey will lend to Baghdad.
The Threat of Ethno-Sectarian Fighting

The events in Kirkuk have developed rapidly and have sharpened divisions within military and government groups. But perhaps the biggest question surrounding the conflict right now is whether or not it will devolve into broader sectarian fighting. Underlying sectarian disputes in the region have recently been exacerbated by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's decision to replace the Kurdish governor of Kirkuk, Najmadin Karim, with the Sunni Arab Rakan Said. The move is an especially sensitive one, given the Arabization campaign that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein led to curtail Kurdish nationalism.

Sectarian tension is set to grow even more if Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMUs) become more involved in the conflict in Kirkuk. The bulk of the PMUs in Kurdistan are made up of Brigades of Turkmen Shiite and Arab Shiite — and the Arabs and Turkmen were two of the largest regional minority groups to oppose the Sept. 25 independence referendum. And though the PMUs have not been very involved in the fighting so far, they participated in the takeover of Hawija from the Islamic State in southern Kirkuk province. It's possible that the PMUs — particularly the Iranian-supported Turkmen brigades — will move into Kirkuk once the ISF consolidates control. There are already unconfirmed reports that Hadi Al-Amiri and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, two key PMU commanders, have entered the city. Finally, there is the sectarian conflict between the Shiites and Kurds and the Sunnis. Turkmen Shiites and the Kurds have both been accused of displacing and ejecting Sunni Arabs and Sunni Turkmen from both the region and their governments as a response to Islamic State's rise.

Even if outside powers can end the fighting between the ISF and the KRG, underlying tension between Kirkuk's rival factions and sects will likely endure. Over the last few years, a shared enemy, the Islamic State, forced many of these groups to cooperate. But now that the threat of the Islamic State is dwindling, their differences have been thrown into sharp relief.
243  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Five new gun laws in California on: October 16, 2017, 02:37:59 PM
5 Bills Get Governor's Signature
 
This time every year, Gun Owners of California waits patiently to assess the damage of Governor Jerry Brown’s pen.  Speculating what he would sign or veto has always been a crapshoot of sorts, and this year was no exception; there were hints he would sign some bad ones and veto a few, but in the aftermath of the Las Vegas tragedy, the guessing stopped.  His deadline was midnight October 15, so when the clock struck 12 last night, we learned the good news – and the bad.
 
GOOD NEWS:
 
•   VETOED  SB 464 / HILL/ D  - That’s right – Governor Brown said NO to this bad boy, which was one of Gun Owners top legislative priorities.  SB 464 would have required firearm dealers to install security measures such as concrete pillars in front of stores/and or vaults that meet certain standards.  In spite of the veto, GOC will not forget that Big 5 Sporting Goods worked out a deal with the author to protect large retailers like themselves that would have put smaller dealers in financial jeopardy. In his veto message, the Governor stated “This bill would require additional security enhancements on the premises of all licensed firearms dealers in California. State law already requires that firearms dealers enact security measures to avoid theft. Local jurisdictions can-and have-gone further by adding additional specific requirements. I believe local authorities are in the best position to determine what, if any additional measures are needed in their jurisdictions.”
We agree; GOC lobbied the Legislature and the Governor heavily on this ill-conceived and costly proposal.
 
BAD NEWS:
 
•   SIGNED    AB 7 / GIPSON / D – Prohibits the open carrying of an unloaded long-gun in unincorporated areas of the state.  This is an unnecessary statewide mandate; this could have easily been addressed by local authorities.
 
•   SIGNED  AB 424 / MCCARTY/ D – Removes authority of school officials to authorize a CCW license holder to carry on school grounds.  Unfortunately, the Governor no longer believes this decision should left in the hands of those officials responsible for the safety of the students and staff.
 
•   SIGNED  AB 1525 / BAKER/ R – Requires additional statements on the dangers of owning a gun to be printed on the actual firearm packaging.
 
•   SIGNED   SB 536 / PAN / D – Requires the Department of Justice to provide information on gun violence restraining orders to anti-gun the Firearm Violence Research Center at the University of California; permits DOJ to cherry-pick who gets what data.

•   SIGNED   SB 620 / BRADFORD / D - After initially failing by a significant margin, this so called “criminal justice reform” bill passed after some serious arm twisting by the Democrat legislative leadership.  The Governor approved the bill which gives courts the discretion to NOT issue mandatory sentencing provisions for the felony use of a firearm.   In our opinion, SB 620 represents an extraordinary double-standard on guns and has the real potential of putting the safety of Californians in jeopardy.

(MARC:  What is the problem here?  Sounds to me like it allows for discretion for the judge in sympathetic cases , , ,)

The real good news is that the Governor, the Senate and the Assembly have done their damage for 2017, but this doesn’t mean that Gun Owners will be relaxing just because the politicians are taking a break.  We are busy working in the courts, are gearing up for the 2018 legislative session, and most importantly, next year’s elections.  Stay Armed and Informed with GOC!
244  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: North and South Korea on: October 16, 2017, 02:04:47 PM
I very much like your initiative in articulating our causus belli.

Exploring it a bit further, I suspect one of the most common rejoinders, if not THE most common rejoinder, will be that once they have nuclear capability, they will no motive to initiate nuclear war and that MAD logic will take over-- and that therefore there is no need for a war of choice.


245  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Eleven rape/assault accusations against Bill (and Hillary) on: October 16, 2017, 11:02:15 AM
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frenchrevolution/2016/07/27/top-11-times-bill-clinton-was-accused-of-sexual-assault-or-rape-an-antidote-for-his-speech-inspired-nostalgia/3/
246  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on Trump and NAFTA on: October 16, 2017, 10:53:47 AM

By The Editorial Board
Oct. 15, 2017 6:15 p.m. ET
235 COMMENTS

Donald Trump is threatening again to terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement if Canada and Mexico don’t agree to his ultimatums. If this is a negotiating tactic of making extreme demands only to settle for much less and claim victory, maybe it will work. Otherwise Mr. Trump is playing a game of chicken he can’t win.

Mr. Trump’s obsession with undoing Nafta threatens the economy he has so far managed rather well. The roaring stock market, rising GDP and tight job market are signs that deregulation and the promise of tax reform are restoring business and consumer confidence. Blowing up Nafta would blow up all that too. It could be the worst economic mistake by a U.S. President since Richard Nixon trashed Bretton-Woods and imposed wage and price controls.

U.S. demands in the Nafta renegotiations—which returned to Washington last week—are growing more bizarre. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer now wants to add a sunset clause, which would automatically kill it in five years unless all three governments agree to keep it. In other words, the U.S. proposes to increase economic uncertainty and raise the incentive for businesses to deploy capital to more reliable investment climates.

The U.S. also wants to change Nafta’s “rules of origin” for autos. Cars now made in North America can cross all three borders duty-free if 62.5% of their content is Nafta-made. Mr. Lighthizer wants to raise that to 85% and add a subclause requiring 50% be made in the U.S.

Mr. Lighthizer needs to get out more. Nafta’s current rules-of-origin for autos are already the highest of any trade agreement in the world, says John Murphy of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Raising them would give car makers an incentive to source components from Asia and pay America’s low 2.5% most-favored-nation tariff. A higher-content rule would hurt Mexico, but it won’t bring jobs to the U.S.

Adding a domestic content requirement also would violate World Trade Organization rules, so neither Mexico nor Canada are likely to agree. And if they did, it would harm U.S. workers. Auto companies that now make cars for export in the U.S., using Nafta-made components, would simply move abroad more of their manufacturing.

It’s hard to overstate the damage that ending Nafta would inflict on the U.S. auto industry. Under Nafta, companies tap the comparative advantages of all three markets and have created an intricate web of supply chains to maximize returns. As Charles Uthus at the American Automotive Policy Council said last week, Nafta “brings scale, it brings competitiveness, it brings efficiencies [and] synergies between all three countries, and it brings duty-free trade.” Its demise would be “basically a $10 billion tax on the auto industry in America.”

Last week the Boston Consulting Group also released a study sponsored by the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association that found ending Nafta could mean the loss of 50,000 American jobs in the auto-parts industry as Mexico and Canada revert to pre-Nafta tariffs.

Mexico has elections next year and no party that bows to unreasonable demands by Mr. Trump can win. The Mexican political class appears willing to call his bluff, which is making American business very nervous. More than 300 state and local chambers of commerce signed an Oct. 10 letter to Mr. Trump imploring him to “first ‘do no harm’ in the Nafta negotiations.”

It noted that 14 million American jobs rely on North American daily trade of more than $3.3 billion. “The U.S. last year recorded a trade surplus of $11.9 billion with its NAFTA partners when manufactured goods and services are combined,” the letter said. “Among the biggest beneficiaries of this commerce are America’s small and medium-sized businesses, 125,000 of which sell their goods and services to Mexico and Canada.”

Ending Nafta would be even more painful for U.S. agriculture, whose exports to Canada and Mexico have quadrupled under Nafta to $38 billion in 2016. Reverting to Mexico’s pre-Nafta tariff schedule, duties would rise to 75% on American chicken and high-fructose corn syrup; 45% on turkey, potatoes and various dairy products; and 15% on wheat. Mexico doesn’t have to buy American, and last week it made its first wheat purchase from Argentina—30,000 tons for December delivery.

Canada and Mexico know that ending Nafta will hurt them, but reverting to pre-Nafta tariff levels could hurt the U.S. more. Mr. Trump can hurt our neighbors if he wants, but the biggest victims will be Mr. Trump’s voters.

Appeared in the October 16, 2017, print edition.
247  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Emoluments clause does not apply to elected officials on: October 16, 2017, 10:51:24 AM
The ‘Resistance’ vs. George Washington
If a president can’t take emoluments, the founders were crooks.
Louis XVI in his coronation robes, painted by Antoine Francois Callet (1741-1823).
Louis XVI in his coronation robes, painted by Antoine Francois Callet (1741-1823). Photo: DeAgostini/Getty Images
By Josh Blackman and
Seth Barrett Tillman
Oct. 15, 2017 6:13 p.m. ET
54 COMMENTS

The Trump administration has been under siege from the left’s self-professed “legal resistance.” Perhaps the highest-profile example involves President Trump himself. Several lawsuits allege that his business interests run afoul of the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause.

The Justice Department has done a good job defending the president’s actions on most issues—but not on this one. The department still has refused to make its strongest argument: that the Foreign Emoluments Clause does not apply to the president. The Trump administration needs to throw out a 2009 opinion from the department’s Office of Legal Counsel that concluded, without any analysis, that the Foreign Emoluments Clause “surely” applied to President Obama. Instead the department should defend the president’s unitary role in the separation of powers—a position the Constitution supports.

The Foreign Emoluments Clause says that “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States] shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” These lawsuits argue that when foreign dignitaries pay to stay at Trump hotels, they’re putting money in Mr. Trump’s pocket, and such payments constitute an unlawful foreign emolument or a present. But the constitutional clause refers only to persons holding an office under the U.S. The Constitution’s language extends only to appointed positions, not to elected ones.

History backs up this reading. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton set the precedent in 1793: When the Senate requested a financial statement listing the “emoluments” of “every person holding any civil office or employment under the United States,” Hamilton’s comprehensive report excluded all elected offices—the president, vice president and members of Congress—but included appointed positions in all three governmental branches.

George Washington accepted, as a diplomatic gift from France, a framed full-length portrait of King Louis XVI. Thomas Jefferson accepted a bust of Czar Alexander I from Russia. Neither president sought Congress’s consent to keep the gifts.

But for some reason the Trump administration continues to stand by the 2009 opinion, drawn up when Mr. Obama was being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which came with a $1.4 million award. The Office of Legal Counsel concluded Mr. Obama could accept the money, but the opinion simply assumed the Foreign Emoluments Clause applied to the presidency. It was taken as a given with no citations either to judicial rulings or to the practices established by Washington and other founders.

We have submitted friend-of-the-court briefs in New York, the District of Columbia and Maryland explaining this argument. At a minimum, the historical record should give Justice pause. But ideally the department would abandon the 2009 opinion and argue in court that the president is not governed by this clause. Mr. Trump’s adversaries are arguing that Washington and Jefferson were crooks.

Mr. Blackman is a law professor at the South Texas College of Law of Houston. Mr. Tillman is a law lecturer at Maynooth University, Ireland.
248  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bolton: A Slow Death for the Iran Deal on: October 16, 2017, 10:49:08 AM
Bolton makes many essential and sound points here (no surprise!) but IMHO the essential question remains:  What to do?  Is the implicit answer that we go to war?

A Slow Death for the Iran Deal
Trump has ‘scotch’d the snake, not kill’d it.’ But proposed congressional ‘fixes’ are feckless.
A Tehran headline: ‘Crazy Trump and Logical JCPOA.’
A Tehran headline: ‘Crazy Trump and Logical JCPOA.’ Photo: EPA/Shutterstock
By John Bolton
Oct. 15, 2017 5:58 p.m. ET
83 COMMENTS

As Abba Eban observed, “Men and nations behave wisely when they have exhausted all other resources.” So it goes with America and the Iran deal. President Trump announced Friday that the U.S. would stay in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, even while he refused to certify under U.S. law that the deal is in the national interest. “Decertification,” a bright, shiny object for many, obscures the real issue—whether the agreement should survive. Mr. Trump has “scotch’d the snake, not kill’d it.”

While Congress considers how to respond—or, more likely, not respond—we should focus on the grave threats inherent in the deal. Peripheral issues have often dominated the debate; forests have been felled arguing over whether Iran has complied with the deal’s terms. Proposed “fixes” now abound, such as a suggestion to eliminate the sunset provisions on the deal’s core provisions.

The core provisions are the central danger. There are no real “fixes” to this intrinsically misconceived agreement. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a party, has never included sunset clauses, but the mullahs have been violating it for decades.

If the U.S. left the JCPOA, it would not need to justify the decision by showing that the Iranians have exceeded the deal’s limits on uranium enrichment (though they have). Many argued Russia was not violating the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (though it likely was) when President Bush gave notice of withdrawal in 2001, but that was not the point. The issue was whether the ABM Treaty remained strategically wise for America. So too for the Iran deal. It is neither dishonorable nor unusual for countries to withdraw from international agreements that contravene their vital interests. As Charles de Gaulle put it, treaties “are like girls and roses; they last while they last.”

When Germany, Britain and France began nuclear negotiations with Iran in 2003, they insisted that their objective was to block the mullahs from the nuclear fuel cycle’s “front end” (uranium enrichment) as well as its “back end” (plutonium reprocessing from spent fuel). They assured Washington that Tehran would be limited to “peaceful” nuclear applications like medicine and electricity generation. Nuclear-fuel supplies and the timely removal of spent fuel from Iran’s “peaceful” reactors would be covered by international guaranties.

So firm were the Europeans that they would not even negotiate unless Iran agreed to suspend all enrichment-related activity. Under these conditions, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell agreed their effort could proceed. Today, JCPOA advocates conveniently ignore how much Barack Obama and the Europeans conceded to Iran’s insistence that it would never give up uranium enrichment.

The West’s collapse was a grave error. Regardless of JCPOA limits, Iran benefits from continued enrichment, research and development by expanding the numbers of scientists and technicians it has with firsthand nuclear experience. All this will be invaluable to the ayatollahs come the day they disdain any longer to conceal their real nuclear strategy.

Congress’s ill-advised “fixes” would only make things worse. Sens. Bob Corker and Tom Cotton suggest automatically reimposing sanctions if Iran gets within a year of having nuclear weapons. That’s a naive and dangerous proposal: Iran is already within days of having nuclear weapons, given that it can buy them from North Korea. On the deal’s first anniversary, Mr. Obama said that “Iran’s breakout time has been extended from two to three months to about a year.” At best, Corker-Cotton would codify Mr. Obama’s ephemeral and inaccurate propaganda without constraining Iran.

Such triggering mechanisms assume the U.S. enjoys complete certainty and comprehensive knowledge of every aspect of Iran’s nuclear program. In reality, there is serious risk Tehran will evade the intelligence and inspection efforts, and we will find out too late Tehran already possesses nuclear weapons.

The unanswerable reality is that economic sanctions have never stopped a relentless regime from getting the bomb. That is the most frightening lesson of 25 years of failure in dealing with Iran and North Korea. Colin Powell told me he once advised British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw : “Jack, if you want to bring the Iranians around, you have to hold an ax over their heads.” The new proposals aren’t even a dull razor blade.

The JCPOA is also packed with provisions that have never received adequate scrutiny. Take Annex III, which envisages full-scale assistance to, and cooperation with, Iran’s “peaceful” civil nuclear efforts. Annex III contemplates facilitating Iran’s acquisition of “state of the art” light-water reactors, broader nuclear-research programs, and, stunningly, protection against “nuclear security threats” to Iran’s nuclear program.

It sounds suspiciously like the Clinton administration’s failed Agreed Framework with North Korea. Many Clinton alumni were part of Mr. Obama’s Iran negotiation team. In Washington, nothing succeeds like failure. Mr. Trump and his congressional supporters should expressly repudiate Annex III and insist that Europe, Russia and China do the same.

The Iran nuclear deal, which Mr. Trump has excoriated repeatedly, is hanging by an unraveling thread. Congress won’t improve it. American and European businesses proceed at their own peril on trade or investment with Iran. The deal should have died last week and will breathe its last shortly.

Mr. Bolton is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of “Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad” (Simon & Schuster, 2007).
249  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GPF: The Russian Alternative for Germany on: October 16, 2017, 10:43:46 AM


Oct. 16, 2017 Either through alliance or conquest, Russia is an alternative to the U.S. and EU.

By George Friedman

Last week, a delegation of executives from major German corporations met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Such delegations are unremarkable. Sometimes they travel together to meet with foreign leaders. It is sometimes routine, sometimes a courtesy. But occasionally, it has significance. In the case of Russia-Germany relations, such meetings are always potentially significant.

Unsteady Relations

There are two relationships that are central to Germany. One is with the European Union, the other is with the United States. Neither relationship is stable right now. Brexit, the Spanish crisis, German feuding with Poland and the unsolved economic problems of southern Europe are tearing at the fabric of the European Union. The Germans and the EU apparatus claim that none of these threaten the fundamental health of the bloc, and point to the fact that, almost a decade after 2008, Europe appears to be achieving very modest economic growth.

The Germans, of course, know the dangers that lie ahead, even if Brussels does not. Many of the EU’s problems are political, not economic. Poland and Germany have butted heads over the tension between the right to national self-determination and EU rules. This is also what Brexit was about. Spain is locked in a dispute over the nature of a nation and the right of a region to secede, while the EU considers what role it should play in the domestic matters of a member state. And although southern Europe’s problems are economic, the fact that Europe has eked out minimal growth means neither that such growth is sustainable nor that the growth rate comes close to solving the Continent’s deep structural problems. As the de facto leader of the EU, Germany has to appear confident while considering the implications of failure.

The German relationship with the United States is at least as unsettled – and not just because of President Donald Trump’s personality. The strategic and economic situation in Europe has changed dramatically since the early 1990s – when the Soviet Union fell, Germany reunified and the all-important Maastricht treaty was signed – but Germany’s structural relationship with the U.S. has not. Both are members of NATO, but they have radically different views of its mission and its economics. Germany has the world’s fourth-largest economy, but its financial contribution to NATO doesn’t reflect that.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) attends a meeting in Sochi on Oct. 12, 2017, with heads of German companies. Chairman of the Management Board of METRO AG Olaf Koch is seen in the background. MAXIM SHEMETOV/AFP/Getty Images

Then there is Russia. The American policy toward Russia has hardened since the Democratic Party adopted an intense anti-Russia stance following the presidential election – more intense even than that of the Republican Party, which has always been uneasy with Russia. The Ukraine crisis continues to fester while U.S. troops are deployed in the Baltics, Poland and Romania. This has widened rifts within the EU. Germany isn’t interested in a second Cold War; Eastern Europe believes it’s already in one. The Eastern Europeans are increasingly alienated from the Germans on the issue and more closely aligned with the Americans. At a time when German relations with key Eastern European countries are being tested, the added strain of U.S. policy in the region is a threat to German interests. Germany wants the Russia problem to subside. The U.S. and its Eastern European allies think the way to accomplish that is through confrontation.

A Most Dangerous Option

Germany’s foreign policy has remained roughly the same since 1991, even as the international reality has changed dramatically. This is forcing Germany toward a decision it doesn’t want to make. But it must consider what happens if the EU continues to disintegrate and if European foreign policy and politics continue to diverge from its own. It must consider what happens if the U.S. continues to shape the dynamics of Europe in such a way that Germany will have to confront American enemies with it, or refuse to do so. This isn’t just about Russia – we can see the same issue over Iran.

Germany can’t exist without stable economic partners. Never has it been self-sufficient since it reunified. It must explore alternatives. The most obvious alternative for Germany has always been Russia, either through alliance or conquest. Germany needs Russian raw materials. It also needs the Russian market to be far more robust than it is so that it can buy more German goods. But Russia is incapable of rapid economic development without outside help, and with the collapse of oil prices, it needs rapid development to stabilize its economy. Germany needs Russia’s economy to succeed, and what it has to offer Russia is capital, technology and management. In exchange, Russia can offer raw materials and a workforce. An alignment with Russia could settle Eastern Europe in Germany’s orbit. With the way things are going, and given Germany’s alternatives, the Russian option is expensive but potentially very profitable.

But Germany has a problem with Russia. Every previous attempt at alignment or conquest has failed. Building up the Russian economy to create a robust market for German goods would certainly benefit both countries, but it would also shift the balance of power in Europe. Right now, Germany is militarily weak and economically strong. Russia is moderately powerful militarily and economically weak. An alignment with Germany could dramatically strengthen Russia’s economy, and with it, its military power. Having moved away from the United States and de-emphasized military power in the rest of the European peninsula, Germany could find itself in its old position: vulnerable to Russian power, but without allies against Russia.

The corporate chiefs’ trip to Russia is not a groundbreaking event, nor does it mark a serious shift in German policy. But it is part of an ongoing process. As the international reality shifts from what Germany needs, Germany must find another path. In the short term, the United States is vulnerable to a cyclical recession, and hostility toward Germany is increasing in Europe, particularly in Eastern Europe. China is facing internal challenges of its own. There are few other options than Russia, and Russia is historically a most dangerous option for Germany.
250  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Rest of the Russia Story on: October 16, 2017, 10:36:41 AM

By The Editorial Board
Updated Oct. 15, 2017 6:03 p.m. ET
433 COMMENTS

The Beltway media move in a pack, and that means ignoring some stories while leaping on others. Consider the pack’s lack of interest in the story of GPS Fusion and the “dossier” from former spook Christopher Steele.

The House Intelligence Committee recently issued subpoenas to Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that paid for the dossier that contained allegations against then-candidate Donald Trump and ties to Russia. The dossier’s details have been either discredited or are unverified, but the document nonetheless framed the political narrative about Trump-Russian collusion that led to special counsel Robert Mueller.

Democrats and Fusion seem to care mostly that House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes issued the subpoenas, given that he temporarily stepped aside from the Russia probe in April. But only the chairman is allowed to issue subpoenas, and Mr. Nunes did so at the request of Republican Mike Conaway, who is officially leading the probe.

The real question is why Democrats and Fusion seem not to want to tell the public who requested the dossier or what ties Fusion GPS boss Glenn Simpson had with the Russians in 2016. All the more so because congressional investigators have learned that Mr. Simpson was working for Russian clients at the same time he was working with Mr. Steele.

Americans deserve to know who paid Mr. Simpson for this work and if the Kremlin influenced the project. They also deserve to know if former FBI director James Comey relied on the dossier to obtain warrants to monitor the Trump campaign. If the Russians used disinformation to spur a federal investigation into a presidential candidate, that would certainly qualify as influencing an election.

The House committee also subpoenaed FBI documents about wiretap warrants more than a month ago but has been stonewalled. There is no plausible reason that senior leaders of Congress—who have top-level security clearance—can’t see files directly relevant to the question of Russian election interference.

Justice Department excuses about interfering with Mr. Mueller’s investigation don’t wash. Mr. Mueller is conducting a criminal probe, while Congress has a duty to oversee the executive branch. Both investigations can proceed simultaneously. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who supervises Mr. Mueller, needs to deputize specific Justice officials to handle Congress’s requests.

The media attacks on Mr. Nunes for issuing the subpoenas are a sign that he is onto something. He recused himself in April after complaints about his role bringing to light Obama Administration officials who “unmasked” and leaked the names of secretly wiretapped Trump officials. Mr. Nunes has since been vindicated as we’ve learned that former National Security Adviser Susan Rice and former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power did the unmasking. Yet Democrats on the House Ethics Committee have refused to clear Mr. Nunes—trying to keep him sidelined from the Russia probe.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has also pursued the Fusion GPS trail, but he could use House backup. Speaker Paul Ryan needs to call on the Ethics Committee to render a quick decision on Mr. Nunes or allow him to resume his Russia investigation. Mr. Ryan should also prepare to have the House vote on a contempt citation if the Justice Department doesn’t supply subpoenaed documents.

Mr. Mueller will grind away at the Trump-Russia angle, but the story of Democrats, the Steele dossier and Jim Comey’s FBI also needs telling. Americans don’t need a Justice Department coverup abetted by Glenn Simpson’s media buddies.
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